Educating Good Digital Citizens

The US Capital buidling overlaid with the words: Digital Citizenship.

SOURCE: Democracy Chronicles

Everyone knows that we need to be good citizens. More recently it has begun to be recognized that we need to be a good citizen in the digital realm. This is quite a change from the  peer-2-peer music sharing time that I remember. I think we can all agree, including children and adults, that walking into Best Buy and stealing a CD is wrong. The problem seems to be that some young people view digital media very differently. To some people, downloading music and movies is not wrong. How do we go about changing that view? How do we teach children and young adults that being a good citizen also means being a good digital citizen.

Sign reading "Please Dont Steal My Stuff"

SOURCE: Dave O, “don’t steal”

In my view the difficulty in making connections between the “real-world” and the “digital-world” is one of physicality. Someone clearly wrote and recorded the songs on a CD and a company produced and published the CD. When young people see a song download, it is just data to them. It’s like it is less real to them. Individiuals don’t see the people behind that item who are responsible for it. This disconnect leads to the belief that it is just data and that data can easily be downloaded. Let’s face it, stealing physical things is likely much harder.

Additionally, young people see some artists releasing music free online. This is obviously fine, but it reinforces the belief that music (or data in general) is free when it is online. We need to teach the idea that online data is never free unless it has been stated as being free. We need to teach the idea that all data belongs to someone and they own it.

Why is all this important? Check out this video:

SOURCE: Xin Zhang

In order to achieve better digital citizenship, most educators focus on students.

SOURCE: Common Sense Education

There is a problem in this student focus… the parents. Too many people my age (the parents age) grew up with Napster and p2p file sharing. Too many of them don’t necessarily view data as belonging to people. We can’t just focus on educating children, we need to teach the parents as well. Show them that data is not just 1’s and 0’s. They need to see the people behind the data. Show the starving artist. Americans look up to artists and celebrities and by showing that these are the people being hurt would go a long way.

I am in no way a master of how to do this. I was a musician when I was young and never got into the p2p music sharing. As such, I have always viewed data as property. My wife and I have passed on that view to our son. Luckily for us as educators, Common Sense Education has posted some real-world examples of how to get parents educated in digital citizenship.

SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DS2mKnqKVH0

Overall, teachers need to teach the students but they need to educate the parents as well. Parents are huge role-models for students and by getting them involved in the process will make our students much better digital citizens. It’s also important the educators practice what they preach and make sure that they are not improperly using materials themselves.

New Thing!

The remind logo.

SOURCE: https://www.remind.com/

I think this might be the first post on this blog that is not based on a class prompt. As some may have noticed, I have been looking into using Remind.com in my general chemistry course (it is a traditional course). I’ve finally reached a point where I can say with certainty how I am hoping to use it. For background, in general, Remind is a messaging system. Additionally it was designed for classroom usage and it meets with the big legal requirements for use in classes: FERPA and COPPA.

Intended Uses

Attendance and Questions After Class

Attendance.

SOURCE: http://www.knowleswood.co.uk/bradford/primary/knowleswood/site/pages/keyinfo/attendance

For many years now, I have had in interesting system of taking attendance that fulfills two important functions. At the end of each class period, my student take out a sheet of paper, write their names on it, and then write any questions that they have either from lecture that day or about the class in general. After class I use these to take attendance for the day. Additionally I go through all of these notes and respond via email to the students to answer their questions. I have found that by answering student questions as soon as they have them helps to prevent those problems from snowballing into seemingly insurmountable problems later in the course.

Remind can serve this purpose quite well I believe. My plan is that at the end of the class, the students will message me in Remind with any questions that they have from the day. Of course they are always welcome to tell me that the don’t have any questions. Because I can create courses and add students to them, I can quickly see who was present and who was absent. I can also quickly reply to those messaged questions. It’s a win-win… plus it doesn’t contribute to deforestation which is a big plus.

Outside of Class Messaging

A graphic of a guy holding a book looking confused.

SOURCE: https://englishemporium.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/hobbit-journal-topic-2/question-mark-book-guy-iclip/

Students often have questions outside of class. Currently, in order to ask me these questions the students need to either: a) log into Canvas and message me, b) open their email, find my email address, and email me, or c) try to remember the question until they can ask me in person. Eliminating obstacles from this process should make students more likely to immediately ask their questions, which should help them dramatically. The number of times students have come to my office and said “I had a question about the homework but now I’ve forgotten” is rather staggering. With Remind, students will be able to immediately message their questions to me simply by pulling out the phones and opening the app. The way I see it, the more I encourage questions and the easier I make it to ask questions, the better the educational experience will be for everyone.

During Class Messaging

Photo of students with their hands raised in a chemistry class.

SOURCE: http://tenntlc.utk.edu/2013/04/09/are-you-asking-the-right-questions/

When we look at the SAMR model, technology can be used in classrooms to take various forms: substitution for current abilities, augmentation of current abilities, modification of current abilities, and redefinition of current abilities (Romrell, Kidder, & Wood, 2014). So far, my intended use of Remind as I have thus far described it is mainly in the first two of these realms. I have decided to go a step further.

The writing assignments that I have used for years, and discussed above, are post-class. What about those students who have questions during class but lack the courage to ask during class? Like me, for example. I’m a very introverted person and almost never ask questions during a class. My intention is to allow the students to message me those questions during the class. I will leave the Remind app running on my iPad at the front of the class and will answer those questions, verbally, as they come up… time permitting, of course. If I do not have time, I will answer them immediately after class in messages. Being able to receive questions from students non-verbally during class is something that I have never been able to do with out this technology. Hopefully it will work well.

Getting the Students Ready

Now, how do I go about informing the students. Rather than spending part of a lecture period discussing it, I have create an infographic (see below). This is the first infographic I have ever create for a class I am teaching. I’m hoping that it works as well as those that I have created for course I have taken.

I will try to update this blog with observations that I make as I begin using the service.

My inforgraphic of introducing students to my use of Remind.

My infographic

References

Romrell, D., Kidder, L. C., & Wood, E. (2014). The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating mLearning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 18(2), n2.

Getting Started with Twitter for Education

Twitter icons with graduation caps.

SOURCE: http://edtechreview.in/e-learning/1256-list-of-twitter-hashtags-to-higher-education-professionals

So, I’ll be honest, I’ve had a Twitter account for years and never used it much. It never seemed all that helpful to me. After seeing how useful it could be for education I decided to give it another go at it. Previously it had been nothing more than a way of getting news about science.

Setting up my Twitter account was simply a matter of logging back into my account. Once I got in I realized that it’s been a while since I was here. Additionally I realized that I never really made a home for myself in Twitter. While I had a basic profile picture, it was old. The colors were the default. I didn’t have a bio… well, you get the idea. So I set out to remedy the situation.

Screencapture of me editting my Twitter profile

Making my Twitter profile seem more like me!

First, the bio. It turns out that I’m really bad at writing about myself. Yeah, I know what I’ve done so far in my life and I know who I am, but none of it seems to me like something that others would want to know. I just had to focus on what was important to me and what others should know about me. It turns out that I am still bad at writing about myself, but I made a reasonable bio. I was a bit excited when I got to pick my profile color. That color, that’s Ohio State scarlet (#BB0000). That’s right, I know the RGB code for the specific shade of scarlet that is Ohio State by memory!

This done, I turned my attention to adding users to what will become a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I used two main sources to do this: Twitter4Teachers and Cybrary Man’s Educational Web Sites. These sites provided me with a wealth of possible Twitter contacts. Twitter4Teachers is nice in that it breaks down users by field so I was able to find some science educators as well as higher education people. I ended up adding 21 peoples from the these two sites.

I also added science users to my account. One thing that is important as a science educator is staying current on science research and science news. Science is always changing and these changes are exciting, especially to science students. This makes keeping up of the advancement of science critical. Most of these sites I already knew about, such as the American Chemical Society, the Royal Society, etc.

A screenshot of my Twitter education list.

My Twitter education list.

It was at this point that I ran into a conundrum. I was following users that fit into two categories, education and science (though some fit into both). After doing a quick google search I found out how to create user lists in Twitter. This makes my life so much simpler. I’m a scientist and we love categorizing and organizing things. Now I have two groups and I can see the post made by each group independently.

While this has been a great start, it is important that I keep the ball rolling. One of the biggest things I feel like I need to do is actually use Twitter. It’s not enough for me read others’ tweets. I need to start contributing myself. I think that once I start to engage through Twitter I will be much more apt to keep using it. I also need to begin using hashtags, both tweeting with them and reading other tweets that use specific ones like #edchat. I think that these are the next big steps I need to take to both utilize the PLN that I have started as well as expanding it and making it even more useful.

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TPACK or SAMR in the Classroom: A Critique

Various tools of the student: notebooks, ruler, tablet, and notebook computer.

SOURCE: https://sites.psu.edu/technologyineducation/

Our world is ever changing. At the forefront of the change is technological advancement. This advancement is showing itself in every aspect of daily life: smartphones can pay for goods in brick-and-mortar stores, self-driving cars are appearing on our roads, and technology is entering our classroom. The use of technology in the classroom can be daunting to teachers who have never used it in an educational setting. Two models have been put forth to aid in this process. One model, TPACK, is a structural understanding of how an instructor’s knowledge of technology needs to be integrated into their educational framework. The second model, SAMR, is a model of the basic ways in which technology can be integrated into an educational environment.

TPACK Briefly

TPACK is a framework for understanding knowledge integration. TPACK begins with three building blocks: content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and technological knowledge. For example, when I was learning chemistry and physics, I was learning what TPACK refers to as Content Knowledge, CK (Koehler, 2016). The TPACK framework does a valuable service to instructors in that it emphasizes the importance of not only understanding the course content, how to teach, and how to use technology. It points out the critical importance of merging all of that knowledge so that you properly utilize technology to provide the best learning environment and best learning outcomes for the students. The downside of the framework is that it provides no real guidance on how to use technology to maximize educational outcomes. It turns out that this drawback makes it less useful in an immediate, practical sense.

SOURCE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glkn9Veggxo

The SAMR Model

The SAMR models parts: substitution, augmentation, modification, and redefinition.

SOURCE: http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

The SAMR model is more useful, in my opinion, for implementing technology into a classroom. The SAMR model emphasizes the roles that technology can fill in an educational environment. I happen to like the chart provided on the right that describes the SAMR model. Other versions of the diagram show the levels vertically as shown below.

We all use tools in our classrooms. If we replace those tools with technological tools that do the same thing we are simply substituting technology for non-technology. If that technology has some functional improvement then we are using the technology for augmentation. If the technology allows us to completely refine activities in our courses then we are modifying the course. Finally, if the new technology allows completely new tasks to be performed in addition to what was previously possible then we are redefining.

A verticle diagram of the SAMR model.

SOURCE: http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

One of the biggest reasons that I prefer the diagram of the SAMR model shown above to the standard one shown to the left is also one of my chief problems with many of the proponents of the SAMR model. Bray, Oldham, and Tangney (2013) come to the following:

The interventions deemed most successful, according to the review, are those that are classified as being within the transformation space in the SAMR hierarchy, that is, those that achieve significant task redesign or the creation of new, previously inconceivable tasks, through appropriate use of technology. (p. 78)

From this, it would appear that using technology for modification or redefinition of classroom activities are the best. I don’t feel that is true. It has been my experience that all of these levels can be equally valuable. I have found that sometimes, a simple substitution can dramatically improves the activity and lead to better learning outcomes.

Example: Lab Notebooks

A pile of several lab notebooks.

SOURCE: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mrwizard/web/labbook.html

Lab notebooks are a critical tool in science labs. Students, and researchers, use them to record what they are doing, why they are doing it, and all their results (including tables, graphs, and drawings). I have found that using the Notability app on my iPad has worked as a perfect substitute for the traditional lab notebooks. I use the Apple Pencil to hand write everything: procedure, results, etc. I can draw or insert graphs and images. It is a perfect. Within the SAMR model it would be an augmentation to the lab notebook since it syncs all its data with the Cloud so I can access my notes everywhere, something impossible with traditional lab notebooks. This last is highly valuable and is the entire reason that I use it. I don’t find it necessary to reach the transformative levels at all for this tool.

Conclusion

In general the SAMR model is good at showing instructors how they can implement technology in their classroom. Based on their personal preferences and abilities, certain professor may be more comfortable using technology as a substitution rather than in a modification to traditional methods. I think it is critically important to understand that while each of these types of implementations are important, no one level is inherently better than the others, contrary to the more typical hierarchical description that abound.

References

Bray, A., Oldham, E., & Tangney, B. (2013). The Human Catapult and Other Stories–Adventures with Technology in Mathematics Education. In 11th International Conference on Technology in Mathematics Teaching (ICTMT11) (pp. 77-83).

Koehler, Matthew J. (Accessed 2016) TPACK Explained. Retrieved from http://www.matt-koehler.com/tpack/what-is-tpack/tpack-explained.

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Reflection on Instructional Design

As I am finishing this course I do not believe that I really understood instructional design when I entered the course. Clearly I designed educational experiences for my students, but my designing process was haphazard at best. I definitely learned that throwing together a learning module without a lot of forethought is not a good system. There are systems, progressions, and logic involved. Using these design methods greatly simplifies the process of instructional design.

Build Assessments First

The circular flow of the ADDIE design model

SOURCE: http://www.noodlenook.net/addie-and-design/#sthash.6SIRDbRT.dpbs

One of the most helpful things that I learned, and will be applying in my future course development immediately came from studying the ADDIE model of instructional design. It is likely that I will never implement the ADDIE model in my instructional design due to time pressure. Since I usually have a very limited time to create a new class, the ADDIE model is not feasible. However, there is one aspect of ADDIE that I plan to utilize in all of my course design work: build the course assessments first. In designing courses in the past, I have always built the course content first and then built the assessments. This has often proved problematic because the assessments that I want to use don’t flow easily from the course content. This usually means that write an assessment and then use it in class. If parts of the assessment didn’t work, I fix it for the next time I teach the class and try again. Using students as assessment guinea pigs is probably not the best idea.

Building the assessments at the beginning and using them as a road map to designing the course content seems a lot more efficient. For example, when I started teaching general chemistry I spent a lot of time teaching my students why different classes of chemical reactions work. That is definitely important information but my exams didn’t deal with why at all. Instead the assessment had the students working out and analyzing chemistry reactions which I spent much less time on. The course content should have been flowing from the assessment whereas I had… chaos? Anyways, overtime I changed the instruction to fit better with the assessment. It would have been nice if those early classes would have had their instruction laid out from the assessment.

How I Teach

A complicated series of chemical reactions.

SOURCE: http://www.kristimillertime.com/2012/01/listography-2012.html

Chemistry is a complicated subject. There is A LOT of information I have to get across to my students. As such I have always kept my classes very basic: a little lecture, work problems, more lecture, repeat and throw in a few demonstrations here and there. Assessments are always homework assignments, quizzes, and exams. It’s the way I was taught. As we learned in this class, this is not the best idea. I have always opposed trying new of experiences in my courses for fear of losing content that my students will need in the future. I learned, in this class, that new technology can be used in a variety of ways to enhance learning. As a simple example, our course had an interactive course calendar and an course syllabus that was useful. My students rarely look at my syllabi since it is the standard LR template (just words and a few links). The interactive course calendar was shocking to me because it seems like such as simple idea but it was SO useful throughout the term. I still wonder why I never thought of that. That will definitely be included in my courses starting this fall.

Conclusion

Laying out the flow of instructional design.

SOURCE: http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/sat4.html

On the whole, this course has been an eye opening experience. I learned that there is a science to instructional design. It is not this haphazard system that I have used in the past. Instead there are supposed to be steps. Within each of those steps, new technology can be added, new ideas explored. Overall I think that this course will dramatically change the way I develop my courses in the future.

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Instructional Design and Student Needs

A graduating student whose cap reads "never too old".

SOURCE: http://www.capecod.edu/web/adult-learner

After over a decade in academia I have noticed the trend that the diversity of students in my courses has dramatically increased. I am not simply referring to race or gender, however. I have seen a rise in non-traditional students (adult-learners). While many of my students come directly out of high school, many don’t. I have more and more students who have had careers, served in the military, etc. Adult learners can be very different than the traditional college student, one who is straight out of high school. Additionally there has been a dramatic rise in the diversity of college preparedness among my students, especially those arriving straight from high school. This increased diversity means that when we design courses and course materials in college, we need to remember to design them so that they engage all of our students.

Individualization and Learning Styles

All the many difference tasks, interests, and activities of a student.

SOURCE: https://www.123rf.com/photo_21508151_education-back-to-school-cartoon-boy-colorful-global-icons.html

Many students today have considerably more real-world experience than do traditional college students thirty years ago. Let’s look at the adult learners. They have been on their own in the world and therefore are often have a better understanding of their personal interests and abilities. Overall, this means that they are best served in a course when they are able to select tasks which interest them. According to Ausburn (2004), that there “…is the growing expectation and demand by adult learners for learning options, choices, and personalization” (p. 335). Being able to individualize the course material allows the adult learners to best utilize their strengths while at the same time focusing on their interests. As any teacher knows, regardless of the type of student, when the student is interested in what they are learning, their performance improves dramatically.

When we talk about individualization, I believe that it is important that we also talk about learning styles. Different students have different preferred learning styles. As Moallem (2007) notes, “…many studies show that matching student learning styles with instructional strategies improves learning” (p. 238). Having individualization opportunities is important, if those opportunities do not encompass different learning styles, there can be a mismatch between the students abilities and the instructional material.

Creating opportunities for varied learning styles can be quite difficult. In fact, some instructional designers do not think that the learning style of the students need to be considered. Rather, as Moallem (2007) points out, “…some instructional designers and educators argue that content and expected outcomes of learning must decide what strategies should be used to deliver instruction, rather than matching instruction to individual learning styles” (p. 238). These designers view the course as requiring certain techniques in and of itself, rather than customizing those techniques to the students learning styles.

Three chemistry students at a lab bench.

SOURCE: http://www.wesleyan.edu/summer/curriculum/cheminstitute.html

Clearly there is a happy middle ground here. When possible, I believe that course content should be individualized and customized to the learning styles and interests of the students. I teach an introductory chemistry course which is mainly designed for students going into nursing or related fields. As such, I have incorporated a lot of medical science topics and assignments into the course in an effort to spark the student’s interest in the material. Additionally we have hand-on laboratory exercises, group problem-solving sessions, short lectures, discussion, etc. All of these activities are designed to engage different groups of students.

There are some topics that I discuss in the class that do not have easy connections to material of interest to the students. Some topics are highly theoretical and do not lend themselves to different learning styles. These topics are important in the scope of the course so they must be taught. In these instances, I have to let these topic dictate how I teach them since customization is not a viable option. Students seem to have less interest in these topics and their performance is a bit reduced.

Graphic of the types of multimedia that can be incoroporated into a classroom.

SOURCE: http://www.robertcampbell.info/news/2014/11/14/using-multimedia-in-the-classroom

With the increasing use of technology, however, I have been able to add multimedia into these topics which has helped student performance. I am not a multimedia designer. As such, I am in a position where I have to wait for someone to design and release materials that relate to my course topics. Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, and Coomaraswamy studied the effectiveness of multimedia technology for explaining complex material in a biology course. While they found that the use of multimedia for explaining complex topics enhancing student learning, that was not all they found (Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, & Coomaraswamy, 2011). According to Kulasekara, Jayatilleke, and Coomaraswamy (2011), “Interactivity built into various design features has allowed learners to actively participate in learning, providing an individualised learning experience. The findings of this study also throw light on designing effective learner-centred multimedia learning material, especially to learn abstract scientific concepts” (p. 125). Not only can multimedia increase student learning, it also can allow the students a more learner-centric approach to the material. For instance, some students might prefer an animation which “shows” the concept while others might choose a more abstract description. Each student, regardless of age or abilities, will ideally be able to choose the option that best suits them thereby improving their retention.

Students working in groups.

SOURCE: https://nomynjb.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-learning-university-call-for-a-paradigm-shift-for-student-retention/

Along these same lines, another research group studied the effectiveness of a general chemistry courses that had been redesigned as a hybrid course from a traditional course (Shibley, Amaral, Shank, & Shibley, 2011). These researchers found that by moving many of the traditional course elements online, and thereby outside of the in class setting, student performance increases dramatically. The researchers moved quizzes, homework assignments, longer lectures, multimedia viewing, etc. online and focused on problem solving, group activities, and small discussion dealing with difficult concepts within the course ((Shibley, Amaral, Shank, & Shibley, 2011, p. 85).

Just like the use of multimedia to allow students to customize the educational resources to their abilities and interests, this redesign of the general chemistry course shows the same features. Outside of class, the traditional and non-traditional students alike can utilize the technologies that will best accentuate their learning. Inside of class, rather than having a long drawn out lecture, the students work in groups on problems that stem from the material of the course as well as real-life problems. This last is especially important for the adult learner. As Snyder (2009) notes, “Adults seek learning that will help them cope with everyday situations… Learning community activities are structured to help members solve real-life problems” (p. 51). Having the students work on activities that benefit them outside of class and on real-world problems inside of class is a win-win for student retention.

Conclusion

A group working on a complicated design.

SOURCE: http://www.archdaily.com/445647/the-dean-of-parsons-design-education-must-change

Considering all of these findings and studies, why do we see so little movement towards these new techniques. Why don’t we see many courses that offer what the diverse student body needs? Why don’t we see more hybrid courses when it clearly helps our diverse student bodies? While I am sure there is a certain resistance to them among certain faculty in academia, I believe that a bigger issue is in faculty education. As Moallem (2007) notes, “Designing and developing instructional materials that address multiple learning styles and employing various instructional strategies for online learning environments are time consuming and require careful design, development, implementation and evaluation of instruction” (p. 237-238). Herein lies the problem. Most faculty are experts in their field but not experts in teaching. This is why we often see faculty teach material in the same fashion that they were taught. Kanuka (2006) points out that “When instructional designers are pedagogical experts but not content experts—and the instructors are content and research experts but not pedagogical experts—the result is a bifurcation of content and pedagogy” (p. 9). It is my belief that this bifurcation is a lot of the problem that we see in pushing more non-traditional model of education. We need to create faculty who can bridge this design. Faculty who are masters of their field and of andragogy/pedagogy. Without this joint skill, improving best practices in classroom will be difficult.

References

Ausburn, L. J. (2004). Course Design Elements Most Valued by Adult Learners in Blended Online Education Environments: An American Perspective. Educational Media International, 41(4), 327-337.

Kanuka, H. (2006). Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct. E-Journal of Instructional Science and Technology, 9(2), 1-17.

Kulasekara, G. U., Jayatilleke, B. G., & Coomaraswamy, U. (2011). Learner perceptions on instructional abstract concepts in science at a distance. Open Learning, 26(2), 113-126.

Moallem, M. (2007). Accomodating Individual Differences in the Design of Online Learning Environments: A Comparative Study. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 40(2), 217-245.

Shibley, I., Amaral, K. E., Shank, J. D., & Shibley, L. R. (2011). Designing a Blended Course: Using ADDIE to Guide Instructional Design. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(6), 80-85.

Snyder, M. M. (2009). Instructional-Design Theory to Guide the Creation of Online Learning Communities for Adults. Tech Trends, 53(1), 48-57.

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Technology Related Challenges in Higher Education Science Courses

Adding technology into classes in higher education is becoming increasingly important. Students are beginning to expect it and administrators are seeing the cost benefit. Within higher education, including technology in science courses (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) presents various challenges, one of which is truly unique to the sciences.

ADA Compliance with Technology

Image of a teacher in a traditional classroom containing students with diabilities.

SOURCE: http://www.campusanswers.com/

The ideas contained in ADA compliance spans all courses offered to the public. The basic idea is that all materials and information presented in a course must be available to everyone equally (Jones, 2014). If we show a video, it must be closed captioned for students who are deaf.

These requirements present a challenge with regards to technology use in courses. Everything that the students will be using in the course must be accessible to everyone equally. While most faculty I know don’t think about it, when we post videos to our course pages, those video must be accessible to all students, including blind and deaf students. What about when we let our students use their cell phones or clickers to answer questions in class? Would this activity be accessible to a quadriplegic student? We all need to consider these questions when working on our courses.

There are ways of overcoming some of these issues. Youtube will automatically create captions for videos that you upload. It is important to realize, however, that the teacher still needs to go through these captions to make sure that they are correct. This is doubly important in the sciences which often uses very complicated, technical words.

A blind student working her way through the alt texts on a website.

SOURCE: https://yoast.com/image-seo-alt-tag-and-title-tag-optimization/

When we create presentations and documents, we need to ensure that all images in these files have alt text associated with them. The alt text allows a screen reader to describe the image to a deaf student making the image accessible.

The problem that remains concerning ADA compliance with regard to technology is that compliance is strictly the responsibility of the instructor and the institution. Therefore it is imperative for the instructor to ensure that everything they are releasing for a course is accessible. It turns out that there is no requirement that the content providers (like textbook publishers) make their content ADA compliant. Faculty must be extra vigilant.

Reliability

Man with a technology failure laying his head on his laptop keyboard in frustration.

SOURCE: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240205650/79-of-businesses-have-had-major-technology-failure-in-the-last-year

Course technology needs to be reliable and sometimes it simply isn’t. Anytime we are using cutting edge technology, we run the risk of that technology failing. Even simple things that we don’t think about, for instance, many of my textbooks are available through an app on my iPad. I let my students know that they can utilize this app as well. When I used the app on my older iPad, it would frequently crash which was a real frustration. My new iPad, however, has not experienced this problem. The difficulty is that while I know how to fix this issue (get a new iPad), it is not a feasible solution for students.

All technology can have reliability issues. Sometimes IT needs to take a service off line to make repairs or upgrades. Sometimes the internet is just slow. Regardless of the reason, reliability issues are very detrimental in terms of students moral. We all know how it feels when we are working and suddenly the website crashes and we are stuck. Not only is it frustrating, it turns the students off to the assignment as a whole. Often teachers are inclined to add technology to a class so that it better engages the students’ interests. Failure of that technology will cause the students become “turned-off” to the material that we are trying to teach them.

Technology reliability.

SOURCE: http://iotbusinessnews.com/2016/04/08/94510-choosing-lpwan-technology-reliability/

There are a few solutions available for reliability issues. First it is important to understand that as a teacher, you have no control over when IT needs to shut things off. As such, we need to be open with our students and let them know up front that if they can’t complete an assignment because IT took the service down, that we are willing to extend the assignment deadline. It is important to make sure that our students don’t think that we will punish them when something outside their control occurs.

Another solution that I have found very useful is to stay away from using technology that is right at the bleeding edge of advancement. For instance, it will be a while before I would even be willing to look into using virtual-reality goggles in my courses. These cutting edge technologies are so advanced that they will very likely have reliability issues as the bugs are being worked out of them. As a chemist, I can definitely see how VR equipment can be used in my classes, I’m just not willing to utilize it until I can be sure that it will work reliably.

Whenever we utilize technology we need to know who to contact in case something does go wrong. In my chemistry courses I utilize Sapling Learning as a homework system. Before I started using the service I made sure that I knew exactly who I could contact with issues. Additionally I determined who the students could contact if they have issues. Also, I try to use services which have 24 hours support. Many of our students do not only work on their coursework between 8am and 5pm. Students needs to be able to contact someone for help when they run into an issue, even if it is at 2am.

Science Labs

One of the biggest distinctions between the sciences and courses in other fields is the laboratory component of our courses. Nearly every science course has an associated laboratory component that allows the students to get hands-on with the topics they are learning about in the course. These lab experiences are critical in the future careers since many science professional spend a lot of time in laboratories.

A traditional chemistry teaching laboratory.

SOURCE: http://mybtechdegree.ca/virtualtour/chemical-engineering-technology-lab.html

Incorporation of technology into the lab experience is difficult. Even adding little bits of technology to a physical lab session is challenging. When I was a chemistry student, during one of my experiments I was performing some calculations on my calculator while the reaction ran beside me. During the period, a small amount of acid from the reaction splashed on my calculator. Before I could do anything, it had melted a hole completely through my calculator which destroyed the calculator. While the calculator wasn’t expensive and was easily replaced, imagine if that had happened to one of my students and their iPad. The point is that many of the inherent dangers in science can be very harmful to most technology that is brought into the laboratory.

A laboratory with computers throughout.

SOURCE: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-combination-metamaterials-singular-optics-fueling.html

Even with this difficulty, we are beginning to see a different avenue opening up with regards to online laboratories. Late Nite Labs is an online service that offers online, virtual labs. Instead of going into the laboratory to perform a lab, the labs can be virtually performed from anywhere. This is a great way of including lab in fully online courses. We are beginning to utilize them as pre-lab for our traditional labs so that our students have a better understanding of what they are going to be doing when they get into the physical lab.

There are downsides to virtual labs that will hopefully be alleviated in the future. For instance, the virtual labs are not ADA compliant. They each require the sure of a keyboard and a mouse which makes the inaccessibility to paralyzes students and those with physical disabilities. The other difficulty with virtual labs concerns career preparation. As I mentioned previously, most scientists spend a lot of their time in labs during their careers. As such, they need the hands-on experience of working with the tools of the trade in physical labs during their education. Virtual labs are well and good but they do not give you a tactile feel for how to physically perform experiments which will be critical in their future careers.

Technology in the laboratory has come a long way since I was a student. While there are no perfect solutions at present for incorporating technology safely and effectively into labs, we are reaching the point where it is only a matter of time. The development of virtual reality may eventually create a perfect system for performing virtual labs. However, I think I am a bit of a traditionalist in this regards since I think all science students needs to physically do laboratory experiments. It is in these experiments where all the fun and excitement of science can be found.

Course Redesign

Attempting to lay out the different pieces of a course to improve it.

SOURCE: https://www.umes.edu/MCS/Content.aspx?id=34406

Course redesign is a big challenge with regard to incorporating technology into courses. Inclusion of technology into a course should be well thought out and designed. Adding technology simply for the sake of adding it is useless. When I replaced my paper and pencil homework system with Sapling Learning, I did a lot of research and thought a lot about how I wanted the homework to work. Did I want the student limited to only one attempt of the homework assignment or did I want them to have multiple attempts? How many homework problems should each assignment have if the students have multiple attempts? Etc. All of these questions needed to be answer before I could just replace one thing in my course with another.

What about conversion of a class from traditional to hybrid or online? These changes have a great deal more challenge involved and need to be thoroughly studied. Many of our traditional courses are lecture based. Lectures can be boring and they get even more boring when you have to watch them from home as a video. Moving a class online is not simply a matter of replacing lectures with videos, paper homework with virtual, etc. It is important to fully plan out the new course. It must be designed to be an online course.

It is in this design that the problem exists. Designing courses takes a lot of time. Typically, this is time that faculty do not get paid for. Often it is assumed that development of new courses falls under our current job expectations. The problem is that we are being asked to teach our current class while developing an entirely new class. Administrators need to understand that poorly designed online courses are horrible for students and bad for the reputation of the institution. As such, they need to invest in their faculty. They need to pay faculty extra to redesign their courses in order to get the best product out to the students. There are various ways for this investment but it needs to be done.

Conclusion

Overall, the challenges associated with including technology in the classroom are not impossible to overcome. It is important the the faculty member understands the challenges and thinks about how they are personally going to ensure that those challenges will not become problems for them. In many cases, faculty members need to be deliberate when they are working on these problems. Some of the problems can also be overcome if faculty are paid to design/improve their courses rather than having to do it on top of their other responsibilities. When more time can be devoted to the development a better end result will be achieved.

References

Lee, B. A. (2014). Students with disabilities: Opportunities and challenges for colleges and universities. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning46(1), 40-45.

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An Critical Analysis of ADDIE vs Rapid Prototyping

Introduction

ADDIE (analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate) and Rapid Prototyping are starkly different methods of instructional design.

The five steps of the ADDIE model of instructional design.

SOURCE: https://kristinahollis.wordpress.com/tag/addie/

The ADDIE model is very prescriptive; it contains a set of five steps that must be performed in order laid out by the model. Beginning with analysis, we move to design, then develop, implement, and finally evaluate. Once the evaluation is complete, the model uses the evaluation results and returns to the analysis step. In this way the model is cyclic so changes can be implemented over time in the course.

The rapid prototyping process is more modern and vastly less controlled. The model itself arises from the computer software development industry. The rapid prototyping model is useful in that it is designed to get product produced rapidly. An initial product (prototype) is produced and evaluated by the designer (and possibly other designers). The prototype is modified based on those findings to create a new prototype and the process is repeated using both designers and users.

Systematic vs Rapid

The systematic nature of ADDIE lends itself well to the creation of a polished product at the end of the implementation phase. By that point, the instructional designer has an understanding of what they want to get across in the course, what their assessment tools will be, what the materials they will be using, etc. Putting all of this together, the designer creates a product that can be fully implemented.

The critical difference between this model and rapid prototyping is time. It can take a long time to go through the ADDIE steps. This is time well spent since a thorough understanding of the goals, instruments, and materials of a course leads to well thought out courses that greatly benefit the students. The downside to this long period of time before the product is ready is just that; it takes a long time. Often we find ourselves in situations where courses have to be created in the period of weeks not months. When time is a huge factor, it is often not possible to be so deliberate as is dictated in the ADDIE model.

The cyclic nature of the rapid prototyping model of instructional deisgn.

SOURCE: http://teachingwithtech.lss.wisc.edu/m3w2.htm

The rapid prototyping model is geared toward fast development of courses. The as the designing begins, so does the course itself. Rather than focusing on all the instruments, goals, etc., rapid prototyping begin putting the material together immediately. These early iterations of the courses are simple but there is a constant, cyclic process of creating and evaluating that, over time, add to the material in the course. This means that over the course of a short time, a deployment ready course can be created.

Too Rapid?

The ADDIE model infographic.

SOURCE: https://nlegault.ca/2011/09/05/infographic-the-addie-model-a-visual-representation/

One of the benefits of the ADDIE model that can be lost in rapid prototyping is the understanding that comes with fully analyzing the course and its assessment documents. During these phases of the ADDIE model, the instructional designer gets a firm understanding of what the course should teach and how it should teach it. This understanding can lead the designer to create the course material which fully utilizes this knowledge and create a course that is targeted at these points.

Rapid prototyping, however, does not have this luxury. Because of the speed of the process, the designer may not have time to fully think out all of the goal and assessment documents at the beginning. There is the real possibility that the assessment documents, such as tests and quizzes, are created as the prototyping is being done. This creates the problem that, since the analysis was likely not as thorough, the assessments being designed might not be perfectly assessing what is desired.

Which is Better?

In an ideal world, we would all have as much time as we need to prepare a course. We could spend our time thoughtfully analyzing a course and carefully working our way through the ADDIE model. This way, our courses would end up being very deliberate and thought out in such a way that what we are teaching and assessing is what we intend to teach and assess.

Cartoon of a thoughtful guy writing.

SOURCE: http://learningcommons.ubc.ca/fun-summer-learning/

The real world is often not like that. Most of the time, courses need to be created quickly. When I was first hired, I had a month to prepare all of my courses for my initial term (I had three different courses that term). With that amount of work and the highly limited time available, it would have been impossible to create those courses using the ADDIE model (even if I had known about ADDIE at the time). I had no choice but to create something and see if it made sense to me. If not, I would edit it until I was a okay with it and then move on. The result was a very interesting first year of teaching. Many things in those early classes did not work as I intended and dramatic edits were needed before the second year. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have known about ADDIE back then so that as I was editing my courses, I could have been more deliberate about it.

Conclusion

Overall, the ADDIE model is, at its heart, a much better model for create quality educational experiences. It forces the designer to be thoughtful and deliberate thereby creating a much better quality of finished product. The reality is that we rarely have the time required to implement the ADDIE model. Often we are asked to rapid create courses. This requirement nearly removes the possibility that the ADDIE model can be implement as it should be. I believe that inclusion of some of the ideas of the ADDIE model into the rapid prototyping model can improve the outcome in these rapid creation situations. For instance, in the event a course needs to be rapidly created, perform the analysis and design steps of the ADDIE model and then use those results for the rapid prototyping. Then, as you are creating the content, you have a better grasp on what you are tying to accomplish.

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Universal Design for Learning – A Reflection

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an interesting idea and it ultimately hits quite close to home for me. As a chemistry professor, I often use many different types of instruction to teach my courses.

Lecturing

A science lecture.

SOURCE: http://www.hotel-r.net/fr/lecture

Lecturing is the mainstay of my courses. Tons of information is presented verbally and in written form on the board or presentation slides. As you might expect, there is a lot of material that needs to be taught in chemistry. As such, lecturing on it is often the default method of instruction. Ultimately, I’ve never been sure to whom lecturing appeals.

Group Problem Solving

Students working in groups.

SOURCE: https://kbarnstable.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/effective-use-of-groups-in-the-classroom/

I often give my students problems, both theoretical as well as real-world based. The students then break into small groups and work through the problems. Once all the groups have solved the problem, we come back together and I go over the problem and answer questions from the students. These problem solving sessions offer students a vision of how these problems can come up in the real-world which gives them a better interest in learning how to solve these problems. I have found the some students who do not seem interested in the lecture material can come alive when working in a group with their peers.

Laboratory Environment

Students working in an organic chemistry lab.

SOURCE: http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/departments/chemistry/facilities-equipment/

The laboratory is an integral part of all science courses. The students get hands-on with the material. They get to see what we are talking about abstractly in class. In a chemistry lab, the students get to see the actual reactions that we are talking about. They observe the phenomenon and then I tie it back into the lecture material. Often laboratory experiments are the most exciting parts of science courses as well as being the more rewarding. For instance, one topic that I teach is precipitation reactions where a reaction occurs in a clear solution and a cloudy product forms, called the precipitate. The identity of this precipitate can be predicted. In the lab, we have student conduct the experiment, observe the formation of the precipitate and then try to figure out the chemical identity of that precipitate.

Difficulties

The Americans with Disabilities Act.

SOURCE: http://circuit8.org/ada/requesting

The biggest area of UDL that I have not really incorporated is in the area of alternatives for various disabilities. Chemistry is a very complicated field and it is often difficult to use various alternative methods to teach certain topics. As an experimental science, a lot of the information that we teach is based on something physical that occurs.

For instance, students are excited to see demonstrations which involve flames of different colors caused by the combustion of different chemicals. This interest creates in the student a desire to understand why different chemicals cause different colors of flames. Getting the same respond from a blind student is a challenge for me. I can, and do, describe what I am doing and what the result is, but the students never seem to have the same reaction. For me, it’s not just about having the student understand the demonstration that I am doing, but to get interested in the science of the demonstration. I need to find better ways of applying alternative methods to my lectures so that real-world examples are interesting to everyone equally.

Conclusion

In my chemistry courses, a lot of the ideas of UDL are utilized. We use multiple different methods of presenting the material. Some of my methods are abstract (eg. lecturing) while others are more personal (eg. lab experiments). While I utilize these different methods, I still need to worry more about making my classes as interesting to students with disabilities as they are for non-disabled students. To be honest, my development in this direction really began last November when I attended the Quality Matters Annual Conference with my wife. At the conference I attended numerous talks and discussions that opened my eyes to the the need for accessibility as well as the possibilities and difficulties in making course material accessible. Hopefully my understand of ADA can aid me in incorporating the ideas of UDL.

 

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First Post

Ah, the first post of my new blog. This blog will chronicle my academic delving into the world of online teaching and instructional design. I have, from time to time, added online components to many of my courses. Now I have begun a master’s degree program in online teaching and instructional design in which I will hopefully learn many ways to improve my classes and offer the best educational experience possible.